Roy Hurns has eight months until he can collect his pension but there are only 122 days until the end of the world. Y2K.
Daddy walked out years ago and Momma’s dead. No one left on this earth cares about Roy, and why should they? He’s a fat, forty-two-year-old, post office employee that lives in a trailer filled with every As Seen On TV product you could ever want.
(But wait, there’s more!)
Roy Hurns has an obsession, an affliction. He has the overwhelming need to prove to his dad that he matters, that he did something. No matter what it is. For the first time, he might be figuring out what makes him tick, what keeps him alive, what makes him feel powerful, effective, forceful.
We are, all of us, disintegrating at the speed of time. Why not go on our own terms? Why not exercise some level of forethought, some dimension of control? We go circumscribed and hog-tied into tomorrow. But not today.
This fable is a look into a dystopian worldview that manifests itself over and over again in the lives of those waiting for something like purpose to grab ahold of them and haunt them like hell. This is a story about the byproduct of bitterness and false expectation. A story about a man who is learning that, unless you find the thing that haunts you harder than hell, you eat, work, sleep, then die.
I was on an international flight to the Ukraine in July of 2017 when the bones of this story fell into place. As it goes, I was in the perfectly wrong place to be writing anything, surrounded by coughing foreigners over the Atlantic with about seventy small headrest TV screens playing everything from The Godfather to Keeping Up With the Kardashians. For the rest of the flight I jotted down notes in the margins of a paperback I had picked up from an airport kiosk in Chicago. To that paperback, I say thank you; I’m sorry I cannot remember your name.
The constant themes of naivety, repetition, irreverence, and spectacle horror are what kept me invested in the story while putting it together. This book was a chance to take a stab at framing our daily, American hypocrisies. A chance to poke fun at all the things we do when no one’s watching, shining a light on our proclivity for ritual, highlighting our superstitions; these motifs ground this narrative to the bitter voice of the narrator. I wanted Eat Me to be a constant attempt to nail down a movement of thoughts; it’s not meant to be a dissertation. There’s no art in perfection, I wanted it to be a little messy. I wanted to write what came out; form be damned.
For me, there has to be an uphill battle for each character; there has to be an exhausting aspect to the way I deliver the work. I’m not interested in creating a world you can escape to. I want to show you a prison, maybe a prison you’re already in. I want to dive headfirst into the most human parts of us, our ability to judge, hate, cover our eyes. There’s something so familiar about these things, the things that make reality TV so entertaining. I wanted to draw from our need to establish the moral high ground; then I wanted to level the playing field.
Taking my own experiences and the experiences of those close to me, I made a court room, a place where nothing is safe. Eat Me is supposed to be all the things life is naturally; dark, humorous, conflicting, sad, dirty. It came out just the right amount of each of these for me and I’m glad to have it out of my head and into your hands.
I so respect the archaic writing style of old religious texts as well as many who teach from them. Pulling form from big tent revivalists and fire and brimstone preachers offers what I believe to be a rich dimension to this book. There’s something so inherently familiar about these old rhythms. Throughout the book I use them to enforce the cyclical nature of dread and self importance. The reincarnation which is the passing down of traditions and practices. Looking at what we value today and holding that in contrast to ancient speech was a way for me to see fear in a new light. The fear of missing out, the fear of disappearing. More of the intensely familiar.
So much of this book is me holding no bars, cutting at the things that made me. I was looking for that bitter narrator to influence the minimal cast of victims along the way. For me, what you write isn’t yours; it’s anyone’s who reads it. It’s my chance to suck you in then suck you dry. I wanted it to be a violating experience at times. I wanted it to make you laugh when you shouldn’t.
Tear it up, burn it, use the margins to write your own book. At the end of the day it’s a story. Grotesque, bitter, exhaustive, hilariously depressing - it’s a story.
Holy Roller CHAPTER 15
He’s holding his clammy palm against my face. His own forehead is a shattered stain glass of melting beads of sweat.
I can see through his fingers though, and I’m looking at him in the eyes. Looking at him through his spectacles, through the rage smothering his face.
He’s pushing me, and there are two other zealots on either side of me with their arms outstretched, waiting for me to fall.
But I’m not.
This balding, sweaty holy roller is pressing my skull against the humid air all around it, cranking my neck back. He’s leaning in, and I’m gritting my teeth ‘cause it hurts, and he’s screaming at Satan, who’s inside me apparently, doing something evil.
This holy roller is screaming, praying fire at me as hard as he can. He’s wearing large reflective sunglasses, and all I can see in his eyes is myself. And I’m standing there, head cranked back, arms by my side like a person who doesn’t know what to do with their hands.
And I’m praying too. I’m praying that this is real. I’m praying that this holy roller can blow me over just like a straw house. I’m praying that Satan is inside me. I’m praying as hard as I can with my eyes wide open between his fat fingers. Maybe that’s why it’s not working.
The two zealots on either side of me are begging me to fall with their eyes, knees slightly bent, ready to gently let me down but I’m letting them down with every second I don’t go limp. I’m an assault on their faith and the preacher man screaming at the satan inside me can feel it. I’m on his side, I’m not trying to ruin this for him but, dear capital “G” God, will you please give me something to work with here.
He’s yelling, “Lusting after flesh won’t make you happy!”
But I’m not lusting after anything, and I’m not happy.
He’s screaming, “Drugs won’t save you!”
But I’ve never done drugs; I don’t even want to.
He's howling, “Money won’t redeem you son!”
How would you know? I pay your bills Mr. preacher man.
He’s shouting, “Violence can’t free you!”
Right about now, I feel like it can.
I can see the game on the other side of those shades he’s wearing. I used to beg God in the quiet of my room to let me just touch a girl, but now I just beg Him to leave me alone. Living on the other side of what this room full of faith healers, and prophets, and snake handling spiritualists call righteous fire. I’m not doing anything at all, just asking for something true, something with at least as much genuine promise as an infomercial.
We’re at a stalemate, this holy roller and I, and he’s floundering like an amateur psychic at the hands of me and my satan. And I’m still praying as hard as I can that this holy spirit is real, and this unholy satan is too, and this role-playing preacher is real, but I’m starting to think that none of it is. I’m starting to think all these corn syrup bred beasts, sweating all around me, aren’t feeling any holy spirit at all. I’m beginning to believe they are confusing dizziness for divine intervention. I’m starting to think these self-righteous hippos believe some spirit is inside of them because they’re actually just fat and out of breath. Maybe they’re just praying to a capital “G” God because he’s the best role model they could have right now. Jesus on the cross, just hanging out up there, bloody and ripped like an Abercrombie model on Halloween. Bleeding way too much, life-size with his eyes turned up to the father. A real ghetto Geppetto. Creating a bunch of liars out of scratch, then making them want to be more than what they are. Whipping them into shape with his own brand of Opus Dei ambassadors, born and raised in the flyover states.
I realize this holy man is just method acting. He’s palm reading. He’s profisizing. He’s playing Mr. Christ, and it’s time for me to play dead. What would Jesus do?
It’s time for me to be blown back by the power of this dime store bible shaman’s spell, for me to be thrown down by his fireball enchantment. It’s time for his henchmen to catch me. It’s time for Satan to leave my not-nearly-as-ripped as Jesus-on-the-cross’s body. I know it’s time for me to be compliant.
And that’s when I start crying.
I start blubbering like a goddamn child. I start voiding my innards with heaving gusts of snot, and tears, and spit, as I scream-cry through my gritted teeth and this holy roller’s fat fingers. And Jesus is on the cross behind this serpentine shepherd, looking away, not saying a word. Really working himself to death. Asking only that I eat him. Drink his blood. Remember his sacrifice.
And all these holy cannibals are kneeling, weeping, tearing pretend flesh from Jesus’s body, drinking pretend blood, tossing real millions into brass plates, talking about lambs and demons and the great serpent. And you can hear the snot in the back of everyone’s head as they wave flags in the air and convulse on the ground and laugh hysterically at the sounds of a room on fire. And Jesus is still. Begging me to put my hands in the air, begging me to pull this great serpent out of my belly, begging me to kiss his grape juice stigmata. Begging me to eat a whole Jesus on the cross so I won’t forget Him.
And people bring their hands down from above their heads and start clapping. Everyone together, except for Jesus. They start clapping like me collapsing onto the ground was a whole satan spilling out of my mouth, leaving me limp like a pile of sweaty clothes. And the henchmen on either side of my biodegradable body start crying harder than they were before, and they start cranking their heads back, speaking gibberish into the shuttering fabric of the tent top, the only thing separating us from God. And Mr. holy roller starts screaming louder over me in cadence, rocking my head back and forth as I kneel, sweating on my Keds.
And everyone’s crying because they’re relieved. Relieved that it worked. Relieved that Mr. preacher man won. And my neck hurts so bad now, and the fluorescent lights are so bright in my wet eyes, and I must not have much of anything left in my body at this point. I slump down, exhausted, defeated, pulling my shirt back down over my belly since it rode up like an embarrassing set of blinds.
Mr. preacher man is smiling at me through his way-too-white-to-be-real teeth. A pimp in heat. And everyone’s clapping and crying. And I’m crying too, still. But not because the holy roller won, and not because Satan is in hell where he belongs. I’m crying because all the magic is gone. I was blubbering like a three-year-old because no matter how much I prayed, God was not there. Jesus was not watching me pretend. I knew Momma was right. No matter where you go, someone’s just going to try to take something from you. Someone’s going to leave. I knew everything everywhere was just the same. All people, claiming dominion of those who are willing to pay to play.
I was falling apart one tear at a time because everyone was playing slots with their soul, and now I was playing too. All of us, great pretenders, begging to be loved, begging to be anything greater than us.
I was lying on the ground next to a hundred fakers, a hundred actors, or a hundred people just like me.